Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review: Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Here, Introvert Reader explains her negative perspective of Karen A. Bale’s historical romance, Desperado Dream. Blue Falcon, on the other hand, gave it a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating.


1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

False Advertising

The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.

I did know the heroine was married, as it clearly states in the book blurb:

“[W]hile her husband was away, [Lisa,] the auburn-haired beauty found it hard to deny her own passionate nature, especially when Cruz, the handsome desperado, commandeered her ranch. And when he captured her and took her to his mountain hideaway, where she was forced at gunpoint to pretend to be his bride, her protests were only half-hearted, for she found herself on the verge of surrendering to the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.”


But I had assumed this was one of those historical romances where the husband is a creep and dies, leaving the hero & heroine to be together. It wasn’t.

The Plot

So Lisa & Eric are married, he leaves her and their daughter behind to take care of business matters. Lisa’s not happy about her husband leaving them alone without protection. Then this gorgeous hunk, Cruz, and his fellow banditos show up at Lisa’s ranch to take her land.

While the rest of the criminal gang are ruthless men, Cruz is kinder and gentler. He protects Lisa and keeps the men away from her, drawing antagonism from the rest of the crew.

Events turn sour and Lisa and Cruz have to pretend to be married so the men won’t molest her. At gunpoint, they are forced to prove to the banditos that their marriage is real. Cruz has sex with Lisa in a very unsexy scene where she is tearful and thinks about her husband.

The thing is, Lisa’s protests against Cruz’s lovemaking aren’t half-hearted. They’re real. She never surrenders to “the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.” While Cruz is in love with her, Lisa is still madly in love with her husband, Eric, the real “hero” of this book. The man who abandoned her at the beginning of the story is the man she ends up with. That would have been fine for me if: 1) The blurb hadn’t implied Cruz was the hero, and 2) If Lisa had spent most of the book with Eric rather than Cruz.

Lisa becomes pregnant and chooses to stay with Cruz as opposed to going back to Eric and their child. There’s an other-woman, Teresa, who has designs on both of Lisa’s men.

Only after Lisa suffers a miscarriage due to the evil villainess’s machinations does Lisa leave a heartbroken Cruz behind. She really should have ended up with him because to me, Cruz seemed to love her more genuinely than Eric, who was a bit of a selfish prick.

Final Analysis of Desperado Dream

Perhaps if I had first read the precursor to Desperado Dream, called The Forever Passion, which was published over a decade prior, I would have felt differently. But as it was, I was devastated by the ending. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I think this is the first book that was in pristine condition that I ever tossed into the garbage.

I can’t recommend this book, that is unless you’ve read The Forever Passion and want to see the continuing adventures of Eric and Lisa in a book where they’re separated most of the time.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

9 thoughts on “Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

  1. Iris

    I know denim has been around for centuries but that cut looks awfully 20th century to me!

    I enjoy the marriage-in-trouble trope in Harlequins–it’s bias confirmation really–I dislike and am skeptical of all the supposed HEA’s between teenaged heroines and the much older men who hold all the power in the relationship, so am pleased to see issues worked out later once the girl is an adult. But the couple in Desperado Dream sound like they’re too easily distracted by other love interests and will probably always be. How depressing.

    1. jacquelinediaz

      Right? I’m surprised there’s no Levi’s printed on his butt!

      Cheating can be a part of bodice ripper romances, so it’s not an insurmountable issue for me. I like married couple romances as well, but I have to know I’m reading one. This one through me for a loop.

  2. Blue Falcon

    I actually liked “Desperado Dream”, a book I read many years ago, more than Jacqueline did. I thought Ms. Bale did a good job exploring the dynamics of the love triangle between Cruz, Eric and Lisa. I do agree that I would have been happier if Lisa had chosen Cruz (I’ve also read the first book “The Forever Passion” and that is why I wish Lisa would have chosen Cruz), as Eric is a royal bastard.

    Major props for mentioning A Martinez and “Santa Barbara”. I was a huge soap opera fan back in the day and even though I’m straight, I can appreciate a good looking male and he was.

    1. jacquelinediaz

      Remember that “Dueling Reviews” concept? 😁 I saw you have a review for DD, so I’ll post that! I like the idea of having different reviews for a few books. Especially where were of of the same minds or in direct opposite.

      As a kid TV-watching was the only kind of vacation we ever had, so my memories are filled with sitcoms & cartoons and soaps & telenovelas. I watched every soap at one time or another. Everybody on the soaps was gorgeous! And the rich characters so outrageously dressed. My favorites were the ABC soaps. But to my biased eyes, the telenovelas were always better. They had proper endings. None of that having your favorite supercouple break up over and over for five years! Or having the actors leave their roles to be replaced by someone else.

    2. Mary Anne Landers

      For some reason WordPress won’t let me like posts or comments right now. So allow me to say I like everything on this thread! Thanks, Jacqueline, Iris, and Blue Falcon.

  3. Mary Anne Landers

    Thanks for the warning, Introvert Reader. Hoo boy, what was the author thinking? Or more to the point, what were the editors and publisher thinking?

    I’ve run into a few cases of deceptive advertising concerning book blurbs. As long as it sells the book, does it matter if it misleads the reader?

    Yes it does, if the publisher wants repeat customers. “Fool me once, shame on you.” You know the rest!

    1. jacquelinediaz

      For some reasons the editors during the 1980s to early 1990s at Kensington/ Zebra gave their books vague descriptions that focused on the characters’ hair, eye color, body shape, and libidos instead of the story! Many book blurbs were interchangeable:

      “Hunky Hero was the love them and leave them type, but once his onyx gaze caught sight of Honey Heroine’s luscious curves and silken gold tresses, he swore he’d never let the minx out of his muscular arms. Her ruby lips opened to his passionate kisses as her alabaster arms embraced his powerful shoulders. One night of ecstasy would never be enough to satisfy his pulsing desire…

      “Innocent Honey Heroine would allow no man to dominate her! Her sapphire eyes flashed in defiance as Hunky Hero grinned a confident white smile as he vowed to have her. The beautiful orphan swore she’d never surrender to HH virile masculine charms. But with one brutal kiss, desire vanquished her pride. She would forever be his…

      “–Wild Kentucky Vixen”

      And then you’d read the book and it was either a 500-page boring tome about ranching or a fantastic epic with well-composed characters and sharp plotting, and it rarely ever had anything to do with what was on the back cover!

      1. Blue Falcon

        Hi, Jacqueline.
        As you frequently are, you are SO spot on about this!. Every Zebra/Kensington romance novel back cover from that time, with the possible exception of their gothic romance novels, was exactly the way you described it. It felt like there were less than 10 words about the story of the book; the rest of the trailer was about the hero/heroine’s physical appearance and, to borrow a line from a Simpsons episode, their “throbbing biological urges” for each other. It was so over the top, but that is what the 1980’s in many ways was.

        1. jacquelinediaz

          Throbbing, pulsing, engorged… the marketing was shameless for these Zebras!

          Walter Zacharius chose the titles, covers and descriptions to be just so, because his policy was to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” I look at these books the way I do horror movies: I’m a huge fan, but on an individual basis they range from absolutely fantastic to utter dreck, with a lot more dreck than former. Which reminds me, I never did a spotlight on them!


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